176 Embassy in Washington to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 1466 WASHINGTON, 24 October 1946, 7.16 p.m.


The State Department have approached us informally with suggestion for continuation on same basis of wartime practice whereby United States and British Commonwealth Naval units visit one another's Naval Stations without having to obtain permission at Government level. The State Department pointed out that since the war ended there has been a reversion to normal prewar practice whereby before a British Commonwealth Naval vessel could visit a United States Naval establishment permission was sought formally through Diplomatic channels. The Americans believe, however, that the wartime arrangement worked so satisfactorily for both sides that it might be continued. They emphasize the word 'continued' since they do not want the arrangement to be covered by anything in the nature of a formal agreement which would invite publicity. They obviously do not want to offer opportunity to Soviet Russia or any other country outside the British Commonwealth to claim the same facilities.

Their idea is that the arrangement should be confined to ports having recognized Naval establishments (and not to purely Commercial Ports) and should cover visits for the purposes of obtaining fresh supplies, fuel, recreation for personnel, and minor repairs. It would not be regarded as extending to the joint use of facilities i.e. it would not apply to major repairs, training of personnel, target practice etc. Permission for a visit could be got direct by Captain of vessel from Port Commander, or if necessary by Naval Attache from Naval authorities in the capital city concerned. In other words, the arrangement would be kept entirely within Naval service channels. The principal motive behind the suggestion appears to be that of administrative convenience, in fact the State Department say it has been prompted by amount of unnecessary correspondence recently required to facilitate visit of small New Zealand Naval vessel to Panama. It is not represented as having any direct connection with the joint use of bases.

The suggestion is being handled entirely between the State and Navy Departments, very few officials are privy to it, and there is nothing on paper about it. Emphasis is on informal recognition, without publicity, of continuity of a convenient administrative practice. The State Department have approached the United Kingdom and all Dominion representatives in Washington. We understand from the State Department that the United Kingdom authorities in London have agreed in principle, though the United Kingdom Naval representatives in Washington have not been informed of this. The State Department also advises that Canada and New Zealand have agreed. The State Department would like to know whether the arrangement meets with Australia's approval and whether we are prepared to make it fully reciprocal. Glad of early advice. [1]

1 Australia agreed to the proposal (Cablegram 1622, 21 November) and was prepared to make it fully reciprocal.

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